Paddle Santa Cruz Island, California

Explore hundreds of sea caves

Roughing it never looked so relaxing     Photo: Aquasports

The Sell: Sea kayak in and out of more than 100 caves.
The Grit:
Feral pigs once decimated Santa Cruz, one of five isles in the Channel Islands National Park, transforming the landscape into a barren, weed-infested wasteland, and attracted golden eagles that hunted the island fox into near extinction. Today, thanks to The Nature Conservancy and National Park Service’s eradication of more than 5,000 wild hogs and careful plant restoration, the island remains the Channel Islands’ most ecologically diverse. Pack food and take a ferry from Ventura, California to Scorpion Ranch campground ($15 per site, water provided) on the northeast corner of the island. Sea-savvy experts should bring their own kayaks, helmets, PFDs, marine radios, and waterproof headlamps to explore the island's caves. Put in at Scorpion Landing and paddle west roughly two miles to Surging T Cave and enter through one of its three openings. It’s easy to get sliced by volcanic rock, cut by sharp barnacles, or slammed into a rock ceiling when unexpected waves hit your boat—so hug the coastline and pay attention to the weather and wave conditions. Head inland for an afternoon day hike at Smuggler’s Cove on the Scorpion Canyon Loop Trail. Aquasports, a 24-year-old guiding service, will help you find the island’s hundred-plus caves, such as the narrow and deep Seal Canyon Cave. The outfitter provides one to three-day fully outfitted trips (minus food) beginning at $175 per person per day.
The Verdict:
Anyone needing a rough coastal escape should head to Santa Cruz Island

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